Bags are tricky when it comes to sustainability – there are a lot of different materials and they all have pros and cons. Leather comes with a slew of tanning, ethical, and cruelty issues while the vegan options typically are plastic or have plastic coatings (learn more about what types of leather alternatives there are and the environmental pros/cons in our Vegan Leather Guide). So there are different things to weigh when deciding on a sustainable bag.
I’ve rounded up some brands using a variety of materials and producing their purses and bags in a more eco friendly way to help you find the best option for your needs, style and values.
As with my other round-ups, there is also a mix of USA, Canada, and European based sustainable bag/accessory brands.
(please note: some affiliate links are used in this post which means we may get a small commission)
DoneGood is fantastic for finding conscious brands in one place, they vet the brands on their platform and you can also filter by values to find what you’re looking. They have curated a large selection of fair trade and ethically made bags and wallets in a variety of materials from recycled and upcycled options, to handwoven fabrics, to leather, and vegan options. Our top picks from DoneGood to check out are:
- Looptworks – variety of upcycled bags made from things like sails, wet suits, seat belts, coffee bags, reclaimed fabrics and more
- Deux Mains – upcycled inner tube and leather bags and accessories made by female artisans
- Nisolo – ethically-made, minimalist, high-quality leather handbags and goods
- Mayamam Weavers – colourful handwoven cotton bags
- Catrinka – artisan made bags with unique accents
Bags Made from Cork
Cork seems to currently be one of the better options for sustainable bags. It’s a natural and renewable material (although cork materials typically come with a synthetic backing) and it can be flexible and durable similar to leather.
Made locally in Portugal, Corkor‘s eco friendly bags use FSC® certified, sustainably harvest cork. They have a great range of styles and natural colours, and also are PETA-Approved which ensures there are no animal products used throughout the production.
(Use code MYGREENCLOSET for 10% off!)
Products: backpacks, crossbodies, handbags, clutches, messenger bags and wallets
Values: vegan, natural cork material, FSC® certified, locally made in Portugal
Ordering: based in Portugal, ships international
A Canadian brand who manufactures their bags in family-run workshops in Portugal from Portuguese cork. Rok Cork has a variety of classic, sustainable purse and handbag styles but made from cork with interesting colours and details.
Products: totes, satchels, crossbodies, and wallets
Values: natural cork material, ethically made in Portugal
Ordering: based in Canada, ships international
Cute vegan handbags made locally in LA. Svala has a cork collection as well as a Pinatex line and some PU pieces. Their convertible backpack/purse in particular seems like a great idea!
Products: totes, crossbodies, backpack, clutches, and wallets
Values: natural cork material, Pinatex, made in LA
Ordering: based in USA, ships international
Bags Made from Recycled Materials
I think recycled materials are the most sustainable option since no new materials have to be created (saving a lot of resources and energy) and it also saves existing materials from going to waste.
Using almost entirely re-purposed and recycled materials (like tarpaulin, sails, advertising banners, and car safety belts) grünBAG makes a collection of long-lasting and functional bags.
I own one of their travel/gym bags and both my husband and I use their toiletry bags and they are not only really functional but also amazingly durable.
Products: backpacks, shoulder bags, sports bags, and cases/pouches
Values: recycled materials, made in-house or in an atelier in Poland
Ordering: based in Denmark. ships international
Elvis & Kresse use innovative and long-lasting materials like repurposed fire-hoses, printing blankets, and parachute silk for their sustainable bags, they also have a collection made from leather off-cuts. As another sustainable feature they offer lifetime repairs on their products.
Products: shoulder bags, clutches, travel bags, and wallets
Values: recycled materials, made in-house or in a factory in Turkey, gives back
Ordering: based in UK, ships international
Upcycled bags using unique materials such as vintage car interiors, seat belts, and aviation materials. All Mariclaro bags are made in their studio in Ontario, Canada.
Products: messenger bags, laptop bags, briefcases, backpacks, travel bags, and wallets
Values: repurposed and upcycled materials, made in Canada
Ordering: based in Canada, ships international
With a mission to clean up the ocean, GOT Bag not only makes functional, water-resistant backpacks and bags from recycled plastic, but they’re fully involved in the supply chain – employing fisherman and citizens directly to help clean up and collect plastic. Their bags are thoughtfully designed for adventurers, students, or everyday functionality.
Products: backpacks, hip bags, sports bags, wallets, laptop cases and pouches
Values: recycled materials, warranty and repairs
Ordering: based in Germany, but they have both US and EU online stores
Bags Made from Sustainable Leather
Leather isn’t something I personally buy new for ethical reasons, however I understand that other people like it for the look and durability. So here are a few brands producing leather bags in a more sustainable way (and using safer tanning methods – chrome-tanned leather is something you want to avoid):
Of all the leather brands out there, CGC stands out for their transparency and sustainability. They have a traceable supply chain, work with farmers to focus on regenerative farming, and only source hides from AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) farms. The leather is vegetable tanned and the bags are made in the US.
Products: currently 1 handbag style
Values: traceable and certified, supports regenerative farming, vegetable tanning, made in USA
Ordering: based in USA, ships within USA
Based in The Netherlands, O My Bag has a wide-variety of styles made from leather that is locally sourced near the tannery; it comes from either local meat by-products or from cows that died a natural death, and then goes through an “eco-tanning” process. The bags are then ethically made in one of their factories.
Products: large selection of women’s and men’s bags
Values: “eco-tanned” leather, transparent and fair production, carbon-offset shipping emissions
Ordering: Based in Amsterdam, ships international
Purses and handbags made from fish-leather, sourced as a by-product from the food industry (which would otherwise be thrown away) that is then vegetable-tanned.
Ms. Bay also uses recycled linings and packaging, and manufactures their bags in SA 8000 as well as some fair trade certified factories in India.
Products: crossbodies, clutches and wallets
Values: rescued/recycled materials, vegetable tanning, certified factories
Ordering: based in Belgium, ships within Europe
Eco-Friendly Bags Made from Textiles
Variety of bags (even laundry and yoga bags!) made from natural fabrics as well as upcycled feed and cement bags. Malia‘s bags are fair trade and made in Cambodia, they also donate to support children and fight trafficking in Cambodia.
Products: wallets, totes, crossbodies, clutches, yoga and travel bags
Values: rescued/recycled and sustainable materials, fair trade, gives back
Ordering: based in USA, ships to Canada and USA
Vegan Bags Made from PU
I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not a fan of Matt & Nat and their greenwashing, so I wanted to share at least one alternative for vegan synthetic bags. It’s actually been incredibly challenging to find brands in this category that have good quality, and are transparent about their ethics and manufacturing. I think other materials are definitely preferable to synthetics, but I also I wanted to share “Matt & Nat style” vegan-leather bags that at least aren’t PVC (which is a lot worse than PU). Although if you know of any better brands in this category please let me know!
I purchased a cross-body years ago from Angela Roi when my main criteria for bags was just that it was vegan. I’m happy that, with a little care, the bag is still a major workhorse in my wardrobe and my go-to bag.
Angela Roi makes their vegan, polyurethane (PU) bags in Korea and in my experience they are quite high-quality. While I really like my Angela Roi bag, when it needs to be replaced I will likely try to find a more sustainable material and brand that is more transparent about their ethical standards. Style-wise they are a great alternative to Matt & Nat though!
Products: crossbodies, shoulder bags, and handbags
Ordering: based in USA, ships within USA (although you can also order internationally from these stores)
Sustainable Bags Made from Other Materials
Colourful bags made from raffia (a fibre from raffia palm leaves). AAKS bags are all made in Ghana by fairly-paid artisans using a traditional hand-weaving technique. (Bags also have leather details)
Products: shoulder bags, crossbodies, and totes
Values: natural materials, made by local artisans
Ordering: based in Ghana, ships international (for free)
HFS Collective uses a variety of eco-friendly materials such as recycled and deadstock materials, Pinatex, raffia, organic cotton, and more. The bags are all made locally in Los Angeles.
Products: belt bags, crossbodies, and wallets
Values: vegan, sustainable materials, locally made in LA, gives back
Ordering: based in USA, ships international
Do you have any favourite sustainable bag/purse brands I missed?
Updated Jan 12, 2022